So I already posted my favorite music of 2011 here: http://aftertheradio.wordpress.com... but I wanted to comment a little on my favorite movies of the year:
The Descendants - Clooney is stinking amazing in this. But everyone is amazing in this. This film does such an amazing job of dealing with real grief without falling over into ridiculous cliches or redemption that seems unearned or unreasonable. Walks that tightrope between humor and pain really effectively and any movie that manages to get a good performance out of Matthew Lillard deserves mad props.
Warrior - Geez this movie is a suckerpunch. You think it's an action movie, and it sort of is, but it's not. You think it's MMA Rocky, and it sort of is, but it's not. You think it's a redemptive family story, and it sort of is, but it's not. A friend of mine put it best when he said he's never seen a movie manage to hit every cliche in the book while still missing them and I think that's bizarrely accurate. Definitely worth your time.
Tree of Life - No narrative, barely any dialogue, almost incoherent at times, but it's easily one of the most visually stunning movies I've ever seen. It's a meditation on the "Where were you when I..." speech in Job. Was mulling over this one for weeks after and that's always appreciated.
Drive - So violent, so very, very violent. But some of the best images/music combinations in a movie I've ever seen. Turns the whole noir/superhero genre on it's head. Doesn't go at all where you expect it to. Such a good movie.
The Ides of March - A really nuanced portrayal of one mans turn from idealist to cold pragmatist. The dialogue is insanely good and really draws you into the seedier side of politics. Probably the best closing shot of the year.
50/50 - I really enjoyed this one. Felt like a lot of people forgot about it at the end of the year, but it's a refreshingly genuine look at illness, grief, despair, etc. One of the only times I've been ok with Seth Rogen in a movie.
Beats, Rhymes, and Life - I love Tribe Called Quest, so this is a biased pick. But I thought this was a really well made, very insightful look into one of the best rap groups ever. Had a blast seeing this one.
Attack the Block - A kid's adventure movie that's not for kids. A genre bending sci-fi action flick, that's also a little bit of a thriller, that's also a social commentary, that's also freaking hilarious. Maybe my favorite movie this year.
Midnight in Paris - Holy crap this movie is amazing. Great acting, great references to historical figures, funny and it pulls all these things off without ever hitting you over the head with them. What sounds like oscar bait on paper never seems desperate and that's incredibly impressive. Really enjoyed this one.
Best Popcorn Flicks:
MI-4 - Really, really solid action flick. Great set pieces, and more solid actors means less Tom Cruise time... always a good thing.
Crazy, Stupid, Love - I'm really impressed with how good of a movie this was. I'd be tempted to put this on my best of the year if it wasn't so clearly fluff. I won't say much cause it's worth going into untainted but it's well worth your time.
Super 8 - Just watched this one a second time and it was way better on the second viewing when separated from all the hype. Like a love letter to my childhood. Nothin' wrong with that.
X-Men First Class - Easily one of the best superhero movies made. Probably surpasses Singer's versions. Really impressed by how character driven this was.
Movies I haven't seen yet, but I'm pretty sure will make my best of:
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse- Really?! Seriously?! People thought this was Oscar worthy? Cheesy, plodding, an unnecessarily long opening two hours. Folks, just because the last 45 minutes effectively tugs at your heartstrings doesn't mean you should excuse a movie that is easily 2/3 lazy filmmaking. Dang it Spielberg, I was hoping for more from this.
Young Adult - The ending of this one really pissed me off. I'd totally agree with a friend's analysis who said the ending speaks more about the writer than anything else. Almost (well maybe not even almost) a truly redemptive film that approaches incremental change and then has the movie laugh at you and say super sarcastically "let's be honest no one ever changes." Super frustrating.